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With so much to potentially see across the North-Western region of Tanzania and so many competitive tour operators offering very similar opportunities, the big question is how best to split up your journey and with who?
Having wanted to maximise our time during our safari across the national parks and conservation areas, we were after more of a tailor-made safari which focused on our preferences in terms of the parks, accommodation and animals as opposed to a standard pre-planned package tour.
Having done a fair bit of relevant research, a lot of our requests pointed in one direction … Lion King Adventures!
With 3 full days to play with, we gave Lion King Adventures an idea as to what our focuses were and the type of overall experience we had in mind, leaving it in their capable hands to come up with what turned out to be an unbelievable experience!
Along with the considerable number of different itineraries and opportunities, there are also a number of options as to where you start your adventure, however many tours do start and end in Arusha. Despite the option of flying straight into Serengeti National Park, the combination or costs, schedules and knowing that our time out on safari would be pretty hectic, we chose the option to start from Arusha where we were able to spend the remainder of our arrival day at Ilboro Safari Lodge by the pool, enjoying the ever relaxing vibe of the lodge. Looking back on the safari and the time spent in the jeep on the uneven tracks across the different parks, a relaxing day before we began did turn out to be a great idea.
The Serengeti National Park itself takes the best part of five hours from Arusha and so with the fact that we were only visiting the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, we knew at some point, either going that way or coming back, we had a long drive on our hands. For those with a little more time on their hands, Lion King Adventures will make these long journeys much easier by breaking them up and visiting Lake Manyara and Tarangire, staying at a number or lodges along the way.
In spite of its compact size with slightly more subtle animal densities in comparison, Tarangire is still quite a significant National Park which is renowned for its impressive display of the colossal Baobab trees and notably the extraordinary number of elephants which migrate to the permanent water sources during the dry season (June-November).
Home to some of the planet’s richest wildlife, Serengeti provides arguably some of the most impressive game safaris along with the spectacular opportunity to witness one of the most iconic wildlife spectacles … The Wildebeest Migration. The Serengeti National Park itself covers an area of approximately 15,000 square kilometres however the Greater Serengeti Area does encompass a number of the surrounding reserves and conservation areas including the Ngorongoro conservation area and Massai Mara in Kenya, doubling the area to 30,000 square kilometres.
Along with its fascinating migratory display, the Serengeti does also protect possibly the greatest and most varied collection of terrestrial wildlife on earth which includes Africa’s famous ‘Big Five’, the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo.
Located along the South-Eastern border of the Serengeti National Park is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which within it contains the ever impressive Ngorongoro Crater. Completely surrounded by its intact 600 metre daunting rim, the 300 square kilometre caldera (21km N-S and 18km E-W) creates a natural, almost impermeable enclosure sustaining its virtually own independent animal kingdom which contains all of the “Big Five”.
Along with the conservation and development of natural resources within the conservation area, following the expulsion of the Maasai people from the Serengeti national park in the 1950s, the NCA work tirelessly to safeguard and protect the 42 000 Maasai citizens which have inhabited the area since the end of the 19th century. Wrapped in rich red sheets and embellished in brightly coloured beaded jewellery, the Maasai people are a beautifully unique sight as you cross large expanses of the arid, barren plains of the conservation area.
Despite major civilisation throughout Tanzania and the increasing influences from the western world, the Maasai people have been able to hold onto their great warrior culture and traditional way of life, living in harmony with the surrounding wildlife and the environment. Having been able to maintain their nomadic lifestyle, the men continually care for their livestock following the rainfall patterns whilst the women build the houses, cook and clean as they teach the children.
Their traditional circular huts known as Bomas are extremely basic made from wood, mud and cow dung which simply contains a fire pit for cooking, a traditional stick bed and a number of animal hides to cover themselves at night.
As we made our journey across the NCA, we did make a stop at one of the local Bomas where we were able to get a feel as to what life as a Maasai might be like. Welcomed with their traditional song and dance, shown around their camp and given a little bit of a talk as to how they live their lives, we did find it fascinating as to how different our lives actually are. Some may say it is somewhat of a tourist trap as you do have to pay your $50 to visit and they will want to sell you some of their jewellery, however, if you don’t visit you will not actually see first-hand what their life is actually like.
With the main focus of our safari being on the Serengeti, we were very lucky and grateful to have been accommodated at Serengeti Heritage Luxury Tented Camp. With 13 luxury tents beautifully lined and orientated along the brow of a gradually sloped area of the national park, they overlooked the Savannah for miles in the westerly direction which meant dusk was a beautiful time to enjoy the comforts of the camp after a hectic day out on safari. After a long busy day, one thing that most look forward to has got to be the food (or at least we do) and when you are spoilt by a buffet of delicious traditional meals, you know you are staying at the right place.
Despite being out in the African Savannah with the temperatures reaching the heights of 25°C, in the evenings it does get quite nippy, so much so that the camp gets its camp fire going. Having not packed for the colder weather, being able to sit around the warm fire to reminisce on a day full of excitement is not a bad way to end the day. In our eyes, a camping experience was the most fitting for an authentic safari adventure where the only thing that kept us apart from the wild animals, was the waterproof, canvas fabric of our tent. With no boundary fences safeguarding the campsite from the wild animals, wondering around the camp at night was strongly advised against unless accompanied by the local Maasai ... and rightly so. Throughout the night we did expect to potentially hear the movement of animals across the dry scrub in the area, however it got much better than that when we got to experience the true natural noises of the Serengeti such as the clear roaring of lions in the distance and even the occasional cackling of hyenas within metres of the tent.
The enthusiasm, service and organisation by the team was exceptional but most importantly, and what made it, were their two guides, James and Godwin who were unbelievable when it came to their knowledge and experience of the area. Knowing each and every track through Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater along with all the habits and behaviours of the animals, it meant we saw it all. This meant the BIG 5 along with most, if not all the other large animals which roam these National Parks. Their hospitality was also flawless and would not be able to fault them in anyway what so ever.
Their passion towards what they do and providing such memorable experiences, along with their desire to continually make any improvements is amazing. After an incredible three days with Lion King Adventures, we really do believe they are one of the best in the business!!!